Mount San Jacinto State Park – Desert View Trail

Round-Trip Length:  2.40 miles
Start Elevation:  8,450’
Low Point:  8,299’
Elevation Change:  – 151’
Skill Level:  Easy
Trailhead Location:   Top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Another short hike we did while in Palm Springs, CA about a month ago.  The wedding couple had planned some activities for anyone who came out to Palm Springs early and wanted to join them.  One of the activities was taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the mountain station and we decided we didn’t want to pass up this opportunity.

The base of the aerial tramway is in Chino Canyon just outside of Palm Springs.  The tram takes passengers from Valley Station at 2,643 feet elevation to Mountain Station on the edge of the wilderness and Mount San Jacinto State Park, elevation 8,516 feet.   The original tramway was completed in 1963.  The tramway was modernized in 2000 and passengers are now able to ride the world’s largest rotating tramcar to the top of the tram.

There is quite a difference in the landscape with the almost 6,000’ of elevation change from the bottom to the top of the tram.  In 10 minutes you travel from desert to a conifer forest and snow.  There is usually about a 30 degree difference in temperature between the valley floor in Palm Springs and the top of the tram.

We arrived at the top of the tram and Mount San Jacinto State Park after our 10-minute ride.


We took in the beautiful views.  From here, if we didn’t know any different, we could have been back in Colorado since we had been transported to the conifer trees of Long Valley.  We headed down the trail, deciding to hike the Desert View Trail which offers panoramas of the high country including several peaks over 10,000 feet in elevation.  The trail leads to a number of scenic overlooks or notches.

After heading down into Long Valley from the tram station, we soon came to the start of the Desert View Loop and information about Long Valley itself.



A short distance down the trail, we came to Jeff (a Jeffrey pine).  Jeffrey pines are the most common pines in the valley and are supposed to have a vanilla or butterscotch scent to them.



Lisa decided to check it out to see if Jeff really did have a vanilla or butterscotch scent.  We weren’t quite sure – we had to use our imagination a little bit.



A look up at how tall Jeff was.


A short distance further up the trail, we came to Notch1, the first lookout across the desert floor to the mountains to the north.





After taking in the views, we headed on down the trail to Notch 2, the second lookout.  A great view looking down onto the city of Palm Springs.



We continued on down the trail just a short distance to Notch 3 to take in the view from there.





On down the trail to Notch 4 and the view from there.



From Notch 4, it was on to the final notch, Notch 5.  Lisa captured this shot of me looking through the roots of a fallen tree.



Continuing on down the trail from Notch 5.



From Notch 5 we looped back through Long Valley.  There was quite a bit more snow and ice along the trail here, especially in the shaded areas.



Our shadows along the snowy and icy trail.



We headed back up to the tram station and, after taking in the final views from here, it was time to board the tram and head back down to the base of Chino Valley.



Our complete 2.4 mile loop as mapped by MapMyHike:

Mt San Jaciinto State Park Trail


We’ll have to come back again when we can explore more of the 54 miles of hiking trails in the park!